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Summary of Activities, 2006-07

Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie, Editor-in-Chief

Overview: The year has been characterized by the pursuit of innovation and new ideas, with the primary goal of improving and enhancing the users’ experience of RILM online. Along with the usual core tasks of abstracting, editing, and indexing current and retrospective publications, RILM has been working hard to exploit the richness embedded in the data so that more powerful and intuitive searches of RILM online are possible. To that end, RILM staff have been working on the construction of an interactive thesaurus, an online index browse, storage of data in Unicode for full diacritical and non-roman character display, delivery of the data in XML format, expanding the classification system, and much more. RILM’s global coverage has expanded, most notably with the establishment of new groups of abstractors in China in October 2006.

Committees: The contributions of national committees this year exceeded recent years. A total of 14,146 citations were added to the database by committees, as well as 10,819 abstracts. (Last year, these respective figures were 10,498 and 7,719). These records were submitted between 1 July 2006 and 30 June 2007. For a list of all RILM committees and their members, see the global network on the RILM website. They are at the very core of the RILM project. Without them, RILM’s ever-daunting but worthy mission of global coverage would be utterly impossible.

As ever, RILM would like to establish new committees in countries that do not actively participate at present, and we could use the help of our colleagues. If you would like to become involved in the RILM project by establishing a RILM committee in your country or by putting us in touch with colleagues who might be interested in doing so—or, if you just want to find out more about what this involves—please contact Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie at

Innovation @ RILM

New Data Fields: Last year’s report outlined new additions to RILM’s database fields that represent important advances in our data content, including the following:

  • A third title field for titles in alphabets other than roman. This field allows for the publication of the original title for Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, and other non-roman publications. Note that the original title will be published together with (not in place of) a transliteration of the title and an English translation.
  • A second abstract field for non-English abstracts. This field allows for the publication of abstracts in their original language—in addition to the English translation—whenever we receive them from our national committees or other contributors. These non-English abstracts will appear with the following prefix: “[unedited non-English abstract received by RILM]”. The presence of these fields will not only enrich the searching potential for non-English speakers, they will also make RILM more useful for researchers who are more comfortable in other languages.
  • Fields for bibliographic elements (journal, publisher, series) and author names are also supplemented with their non-roman equivalents, which makes it possible (when available) to display entire records in English and in the non-roman version. (Records received from the Chinese committee will all be displayed bilingually.)

XML: All of RILM’s data from 1967 to the present was sent early in the summer of 2007 to all vendors of RILM online interfaces in its new XML format. This is a significant development for RILM’s users for many reasons, including the following:

  • All of the new data fields (including those mentioned above) will now be published online.
  • All the data is in Unicode, so diacritical and non-roman characters of all languages will finally be displayed online.
  • All of RILM’s cleaned-up and improved older data will replace the previous version.
  • The XML format and the cleaned-up data will allow for more consistent and accurate links with other resources, particularly with full-text publications.
  • XML format is far more flexible and powerful than the earlier tagged format used by RILM. It will allow RILM’s online distributors to better exploit the richness in RILM’s data, applying technological innovations to search, browse, and discover functions.

Thesaurus: RILM is in the process of constructing a faceted online thesaurus. This will be a multi-phase project. The first step is to arrange RILM’s subject headings into faceted groupings and define relations between terms. This phase is well on its way to completion. Once finished, we are aiming to add many equivalences and synonyms (particularly for names and other proper nouns, so that, for example, it will not matter how users spell Čajkovskij), providing rich lead-in vocabulary. We are also planning to add translations in as many languages as possible. The goal is for this thesaurus to help online users navigate RILM’s database more easily, powerfully, and intuitively.

Online Index Browse: RILM is working with our online distributors to develop an index browsing system that will work in conjunction with the thesaurus. While the cumulative print indexes offered users a highly organized way of browsing the RILM index, it was limited to annual or five-year periods. The online index browse will provide the possibility of accessing all 40+ years of indexing and of linking directly to records. The use of the online index browse will be greatly enhanced by the thesaurus: One of the functions of the thesaurus will be to offer a rich and relationally organized vocabulary, through which users can be oriented to existing and browsable subject headings.

Classification schema: As RILM’s coverage becomes more global and more inclusive of non-Western music traditions, the classification of abstracts into 99 major topics is becoming too limiting, producing search results that are too large and imprecise. For example, it has always been RILM’s practice to classify the majority of Asian materials in class 33 (ETHNOMUSICOLOGY: ASIA), so that studies of historical Asian art musics merged together with studies of Asian traditional musics. Similarly, in the class for POETRY AND OTHER LITERATURE scholarship on written literature is merged with studies of song texts transmitted in oral tradition. The new classification schema will preserve the overall organization of the original classes, but each existing class will be subdivided into more specific topics; this will allow for more precise browsing and searching.

Links Additional links between RILM and other resources helpful to users are in the works. In addition to more and more full-text links, Grove articles will link to RILM with the launch of Grove’s new and improved, feature-rich online release later in 2007. Links are also being worked out between RILM and various online sound resources, scores, and more.

New website: RILM is developing a new website that will be primarily oriented towards its users. As part of the effort to improve the search experience, RILM staff are working on tutorials that address the individual features of each online interface. These tutorials will be made available both as text and in video (Flash) formats. The vendors have already expressed interest in making these tutorials available on their websites. RILM is also developing an enhanced contact section for the website to increase communications with users. Users will be able to report errors, ask for help, and make suggestions regarding our scope and coverage. A development that has already been implemented on the website is a browsable journals section. The existing sections of the site—history, mission, organization, committee pages, reports, publications etc.—are also being revised from the perspective of content and clarity. Finally, a simplified submissions form for authors to send their abstracts to RILM is envisioned.

e-RILM Database Growth and Currency: This year 31,472 new main records and 4309 review records were added to the RILM database, which is now nearing the half-million mark. Here are the numbers of records in the database, by RILM year, for the last 20 years. While RILM accepts records of previously omitted publications in all years, the majority of new records were added to the most recent five years, which are projected to reach some 20,000 entries each. Note that RILM years 1999 and 2000 are double the size of other RILM years because they contain many records of earlier publication previously omitted. In fact, roughly half of the records in 1999 and in 2000 represent older material, reflecting a concerted effort to fill in lacunae.

RILM YearNumber of RecordsRILM YearNumber of Records

RILM Online and CD-ROM: RILM continues to be available through five online distributors: ProQuest CSA Illumina, EBSCOhost, NISC Biblioline, OCLC FirstSearch, and Ovid SilverPlatter. NISC produces the RILM CD-ROM, called MuSe. Online usage has increased significantly, reaching an all-time high of monthly searches. Each interface adds value to RILM online and on CD-ROM with features such as links to full-text journal articles (including JSTOR), library holdings, local library catalogues, interlibrary loan, document delivery services, the ability to export records formatted for bibliographic managers such as Procite and Endnote, alert services that send new records in a user’s area of interest to their e-mail on a regular basis, and cross-database searching with other humanities databases. In addition, some vendors are now offer clustering, visual search, and other innovations. OCLC has an impressive new feature called “Identities”.

See to have a look. EBSCO also has a number of new features, including RSS feed alerts, keyword suggestions based on popular and commonly misspelled search terms, improved search history pages, and more. As mentioned above, RILM’s XML data will aid in the effectiveness and improvement of these and other new features coming down the pike.

Retrospective RILM

Step One: RILM has been steadily building a strong retrospective file, abstracting and indexing important material published before RILM’s founding in 1967. The first step, supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, was the abstracting and indexing of articles in conference proceedings; that project added over 6000 new records to the database dating back as early as 1835. These records were first published as a printed volume entitled Speaking of Music: Music Conferences, 1835-1966. They will be added to the RILM database online and on CD-ROM.

Step Two: This step, currently under way thanks to a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in the USA, is the abstracting and indexing of Festschriften for individuals and anniversary volumes for music organizations, publishers, ensembles, and concert venues published before 1967. Like conference proceedings, Festschriften are a particularly valuable repository of music research, and one that has been all but inaccessible to researchers. They include many groundbreaking studies by scholars who have since been recognized as seminal figures in Western musicology, ethnomusicology, music librarianship, performance practice, and other related fields, as well histories of performing organizations that are frequently the best documentation of musical life in smaller urban areas. Sources for identifying Festschriften to be included in the project include Walter Gerboth’s An index to musical Festschriften and similar publications (New York: W. W. Norton, 1969); Festschriften lists in MGG and Grove; various online catalogues such as WorldCat and catalogues of national libraries; and RILM’s excellent national committees, who are helping us to achieve the broad international coverage that is a hallmark of RILM. If you know of Festschriften we ought to include in this project, please be sure to send us the information (send to or This project will be complete by the end of February 2008.

Step Three: Once the Festschriften project is complete, funding will be sought for the third retrospective project: the retrospective abstracting and indexing of core music journals. We will do this in coordination with RILM’s sister project, RIPM: While RILM is extending our chronological reach backward from 1967, RIPM has extended theirs forward from the 19th century up to the middle of the 20th. In general, journals that ceased publication around 1950 will be in the domain of RIPM; those that continued well past this date will be covered by RILM. Between the two projects, over two centuries of periodicals will be indexed.

Conference Proceedings: The proceedings of RILM’s first conference, Music’s Intellectual History: Founders, Followers, & Fads (March 2005)—inspired by step one of the retrospective project—will be published by the end of 2007 or early 2008. There will be 65 articles in the volume. The subject of the conference was the historiography of music, and the quality and variety of topics represented in the articles is impressive. An announcement of the volume’s publication will appear on the RILM website and on several listserves.

Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie